By Amy Whelan
Chapter 1541’s first Ray Scholar
It’s crazy to think I have been in college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida for six months and have accomplished so much in that time. With everything this chapter has allowed me to do and become, I wanted to take some time to share the experiences I have had.
The summer was fast paced and hectic at times, but I am glad I had the opportunity to start early. While we were the guinea pigs for the school trying to figure out all the new Covid protocols, it was nice to meet new people who were at the same point of flight training I was at. I took one in-person class which was my instrument ground school class and one online class which was my computer class.
It was a good way to start college with a lighter load so that I could figure out the school and how the fight department worked. During the summer I was scheduled for six activities a week: an oral, sim or flight depending on the module I was working on. There were about 40 modules in the instrument rating course and I was able to get through more than half in the summer. My flight block was from 2000-2350 so I had to become a night person. The night block was nice because the bad weather was normally in the afternoon and would clear up before I flew. I spent a lot of time during summer learning the G1000 and checklist flows. On the flight portion I did a lot of intercepting and tracking.
Coming into Embry-Riddle with my private pilot license (PPL) made a big difference because it saved me so much time and money. The average student spends $26,000 and one year to get just their PPL alone at ERAU. In order to start my instrument training I had to do a transition course with an oral, sim and flight. During the transition I learned how to navigate within the flight department, sim center and flight line and showed that I was a proficient private pilot.
There is a lot you have to do behind the scenes to go flying. My first flight at ERAU was a cool experience as it was at night. Sadly it was hard to see the area and little did I know it was going to be my only flight that I wasn’t wearing foggles. I learned how to ‘ramp out’, get clearance, use all the checklists (there are a lot of them), and was able to do some basic maneuvers in a 172. It was a short flight but definitely one I won’t forget.
Instrument training was a different experience. I will never forget my first sim and how after taking off at 500 feet the screen just went white. At first I was confused, but my instructor assured me saying it will always be like this because you have to learn to just trust the instruments. It was definitely different to only be able to rely on the instruments and making it even harder was the G1000 system I was still learning how to use. Doing all the checklists took a little bit longer as I was still figuring out where everything was.
For my first instrument flight the conditions that night were broken at 2,000 so we left VFR and shortly after takeoff my instructor had me put on foggles and fly like that for the rest of the night. As we were getting clearance to come back into Daytona we picked up IFR and I was able to take the foggles off so I could experience flying through the clouds. To this day it is one of the coolest experiences of my life. It was a different feeling going through the clouds and having to really trust the instruments.
The strobe lights flashing off the clouds was the only thing we could see. It was also very turbulent and we even ran into some precipitation. This was my first storm flying experience. We requested a lower altitude and vectors to final approach course around the storm. On the transition course flight my instructor helped me on the landing but on this first instrument flight he said it was all me. I made it a long landing so that way we wouldn’t have to taxi as far. I tried to make it a soft field landing so I took advantage of the ground effect for as long as I could before flaring and making a perfect landing. My instructor was very impressed and I was even surprised because it was my first time landing something other than the 150 I trained in.
The fall semester was very different from summer. Within a matter of days the school was filled with hundreds of people and my room of one went to a room of four. The quiet student union turned into the main hangout for everyone and the school radio station was always playing. This also affected flight ops.
With so many people, you had to make sure you got to your flight activities early or sometimes they would over book and you could end up waiting hours for the next available plane or sim. At that point in my training I was working on approaches and starting to plan for cross countries. Approaches took a lot of repetition, and learning what ATC was going to do before they actually did it was important. I also had to learn how to program the G1000 so that it would show the approach.
For my cross country I did one long one to Saint Simons, GA and shot a VOR approach and from there we went to Gainesville, Fl and did a GPS approach. We did a lot of sim work near the end of my training with a lot of inoperative instruments and different emergency procedures.
We also had to do ‘preprogs’ which were oral, sim and flight with a different instructor. My end of course, aka checkride, included an oral and sim one day and flight the next day. The oral was a little less than an hour due to the high score I had on my written and the amount of preparation I had for it. I then went right to my sim, where I did VOR intercepting and tracking, an ILS approach to go miss, and a VOR approach with AHRS failure. Passing that was the hard part because I felt really confident with my flying ability.
With my flight all I had to do was take off, do unusual attitudes on a climb out and then shoot the approach and circle to land. After the take off we did unusual attitudes and I recovered very nicely from them. I was then vectored onto the final approach course for the RNAV 16 after reaching circling minimums which I had to go to the NOTAMs to double check. I was able to start my circle around the Daytona Speedway, I had accepted land and hold short instructions which seemed no problem because of how long the runway is but just to make sure I landed right on the numbers and made the first taxi exit.
After completing my after landing checklist the check pilot was able to tell me I passed and that was such a relief. We then went back and filled out all the paperwork and I received the pin I had worked so hard for. This was a great full semester at school and I am grateful for all the support I received.
I want to say how thankful I am for the many ways EAA and Chapter 1541 has supported me in my passion for aviation. Being selected as your first Ray Scholar has truly changed my life and I am forever thankful. If you ever find yourself in Daytona Beach, Florida please contact me and I would be honored to give you a tour and show you around the ERAU campus.